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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Banned Books - Rodems: Home

Banned Books - Assignment Details

Due Dates:     Chosen Book:

1st period and 2nd period: Thursday, December 10 by the end of class through Webtools Form

                            8th period: Friday, December 11 by the end of class through Webtools form

Proposal to Read (40): Email sent to parents/guardians and me by Friday Dec 18th by 4:00 pm

Recorded Book Talk Due (60): Monday, January 18th by 4:00 pm to Compass Discussion Board

Evaluation (80): Monday, February 1 by 4:00 to Compass

Total points 180 points

Assignment: For your first research project, you will be dealing with challenged and/or banned books. In this unit, you will research a book that has been banned or challenged somewhere at some time—the challenge could have happened 50 years ago or 5 years ago. The possibilities are vast, although some banned books will be off limits, those too sophisticated or too simplistic: the choice has to be age-appropriate. You will also need to choose a book that you have never read before.    

Each of you will become an expert on a challenged book. You will want to consider several questions: Why was the book challenged? By whom? What restrictions were the challengers seeking? What case was made against the book? How did others in the community/country/world react? What did the "experts" think about the challenge? Was the challenge successful? Class time and library help will be given to your research.

Proposal:         Once you know the story of the challenge and the book, you will write an email proposal to your parents explaining the background of the book, including a brief history of the challenge and issues involved, and discuss the choice with them.  You will ask them to acknowledge and approve your choice.  Should they refuse, you must either begin again—under some serious time constraints—or revise your proposal to make it acceptable to your parents.

Having researched the case involving the book and gotten permission to read the work, you will need to secure a copy of the book immediately, either through a library, purchase, or a friend. We will have a few days of class time set aside for reading.  Given the time constraints, I suggest you chose a book that is not overly lengthy for your reading pace. 

READ EXTENDED Proposal explanation below when it’s time to begin this portion of the project.

Book Talk:       Once you have read the novel, you will record a 3-4 minute book talk about your novel. 

Don’t give away the ending, provide the basic information about the characters, setting, and plot, in your own words based on your reading of the novel.

READ EXTENDED Book Talk explanation below when it’s time to begin this portion of the project.      

Evaluation:     Lastly, you will evaluate the case against the book and offer your "expert" opinion on the value of the book and its challenge. Were the arguments against the book valid or not? Why?  READ EXTENDED Evaluation explanation below when it’s time to begin this portion of the project.   


Documentation: MLA format.  In preparation for this documentation, you will need to keep careful, accurate, and thorough notes of any source you consult, on-line or off. Both the Proposal and the Evaluation will need in-text documentation and a "Works Cited" area at the end. Some class time will be devoted to all of this, but you should depend heavily on the MLA Handbook and Noodle Tool. 

Proposal/Email to Parents 

Due Email sent to parents/guardians and me by Friday Dec 18th by 4:00 pm ( 

OR, you could print off the document, have your parents sign it, and email the image and saved document to me.  

  1. Your audience. You are not writing to the teacher; you are addressing your parents. You know them. You know what they will allow and what they will not. You have to formulate your argument in a way they will find acceptable.
  2. Your Purpose. You are presenting an argument. You have to provide your audience with all the information they need, which includes some general information about banned and challenged books.  You must discuss the book’s controversial issues--the reasons the book has been banned
    1. Required content:
      1. General information about banned and challenged books and the assignment (what's the purpose of sending the email/letter)
      2. Title, author, and year of publication of the book.  
      3. A brief summary of the book (you could gather this from the book itself or from any of the resources on the CPP.). 
      4. Explain the who, when, where, and why the book has been challenged.  
        1. If your book has been challenged more than once, you need to state specifically (if you can) or approximately how many times the book has been challenged (5, a few, many, every year, etc.).  You may have to look through several different years of challenges to find more than one challenge.  
        2. You can then focus on one specific challenge in terms of the who, where, and when, but YOU must tell them ALL the reasons why the book was challenged (sexual content, alcohol and drug use, etc.)
      5. Justify why you should be allowed to read the book – and getting a passing grade is not a valid reason.  Your parents have to acknowledge your choice.  They could certainly say no.  Know your limits and know their limit. You must choose at least 2 of the following options:   
        1. Use the Novelist and/or Literature Resource Center on the CPP (book reviews and awards) to provide support for your argument.  
        2. “The Freedom to Read Statement” to support your argument
        3. Direct quotes from the librarian panelists
        4. Consider using your inside information about your family.  What do your parents/guardians/family value?  How does that relate to what you’d like to read? 

Length. This proposal should be approximately 300 words. The letter should also be more than one paragraph.  

Documentation. You have to prove to your reader that you have done your research. You do that by including MLA in-text documentation of your researched material and ending with a correct MLA citation of any and all sources you cited in the proposal. (Note: I will alert your parents to look for documentation. If none is there, I will advise your parent to deny your request.)

Book Talk

Due: Monday, January 18th by 4:00 to Compass Discussion Board

  1. Your audience: your classmates 
  2. Your Purpose: You are presenting the basic information about the novel:
    1. title, author, year of publication
    2. characters
    3. setting
    4. basic plot, but NO SPOLIERS!  
    5. The idea is to get your classmates interested in your book, so you should explain to the students what might be appealing about the book.  However, it’s possible that you won’t like the book you’ve read.  If that’s the case, again, consider what might appeal to other readers about the book. 
  3. Format: This book talk should be prerecorded in any number of formats: on your phone, computer, Kaltura, Zoom, or any other format that can be uploaded to Compass.
  4. Length. This book talk should be approximately 3-4 minutes.


Due: Monday, February 1 by 4:00 to Compass Essay Prompts

Your audience: the schoolboard or community from the area where the book was actually challenged.

Your Purpose: argue for the validity or invalidity of the arguments against the book which are the arguments for banning the book.  You have researched the issues involved with your book. You have read it yourself to form your own opinion. In the evaluation, you share your expertise. 

    1. Requirements:
      1. Follow the book’s challenges by researching through the databases, in particular the newspaper articles, to find the primary sources discussing the challenges.  Most of you will be able to find this information; some of you will not.  If you cannot find this information, reach out to Ms. Arnold and Mrs. Rodems for help.  
      2. Choose one of the book’s challenges and begin the essay by stating that you are responding to the challenge: providing detailed information about who, when, where, why, and how the book has been challenged or banned. 
      3. Thesis statement: make an assertion about the worth of the book and the validity of the arguments against it. You should ultimately make an assertion about whether the good outweighs the bad, the bad outweighs the good, or somewhere in between those two ideas.    
      4. You must have at least two developed and thoroughly supported major claims to explain what the book has to offer or does not have to offer: use your knowledge of literary analysis as well as your understanding of the value – or lack of – the book.  Consider these options:
        1. What makes this book valuable? 
          1. Consider the basics: plot, characters, setting, theme, message.
        2. What else might make this novel valuable?  What do you expect from a piece of writing?     
        3. You could consider some of the ideas you used in the letter/email to your parents. 
        4. Why should readers be able to read this book, or why should they be prevented from reading the book? 
        5. Consider our discussions of the “Freedom to Read Statement” or the librarian panel. 
      5. Within these two major claims, you will be required to support your assessment with research from the library class project page.  Remember, that while you are the expert arguing for or against the book, you should use additional credible voices that support your opinion, or against which you may argue.
        1. Acceptable sources to use: Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom, Hitlist, Banned Books Reference Series, Newsbank, Lexis Nexis, ProQuest, Novelist, Literature Resource Center, and other resources provided on the library Class Project Page. 
        2. If you are unable to find sources through these options, YOU MUST talk to Ms. Arnold or me before seeking out other resources.  NO EXCEPTIONS   

Format: formal, double spaced, regular 12 point font, MLA format.  The evaluation does not need a traditional introduction and conclusion (although it could include them)­­­­; however it does need a thesis statement that makes a claim about the value of the book. 


Length: 3-5 pages

Documentation: The use of outside sources means the evaluation must have documentation. Use MLA format, in-text documentation, and include a “Works Cited” page at the end that meets MLA standards. Give the assessment an original title and use the MLA heading.